With tournament season now over and Big Ten play beginning, we’re at approximately the halfway point of the softball season, and Maryland currently sits at 10-19.
There have been tournaments where the team has played well and tournaments that haven’t gone so great. There have been players who have impressed, and players who could use the Big Ten slate to salvage their seasons. Here’s a stock report of what’s gone right and what hasn’t for the Terps in 2018.
Maryland’s pitching has been its strength.
One could argue that Ryan Denhart has been Maryland’s best player so far this season. Julie Wright has depended on the freshman to be go-to pitcher, as she’s thrown 100.2 innings already this season. For the most part, Denhart has answered the call, managing a 2.29 ERA with a 6-8 record.
Denhart has also shown she’s capable of starting games or coming out of the bullpen, and has also been counted on several times to pitch entire games. She’s already hurled five complete games; Maryland’s other primary pitcher, Sydney Golden, has two. With the fairly difficult Big Ten schedule ahead, Denhart is likely going to continue to be counted on to pitch significant innings effectively going forward.
Meanwhile, Golden has had somewhat of an up-and-down season so far, having games where she pitches well and others where the opponents get several runs across. Wright’s second pitching option, Golden has thrown 79.1 innings this season, 0.2 innings off her entire 2017 pitching total. She currently has a 4.15 ERA, up from her 2.98 ERA at Cal State Fullerton.
Golden’s record currently sits at 4-10, which can partially be explained by inconsistent pitching as well as poor support from Maryland’s offense. Improvements on both sides could change her record for the better in the second half.
A few hitters are having breakthrough seasons.
Opposite Denhart, senior third baseman Skylynne Ellazar has been the most effective offensive player and team leader. Ellazar leads the Terps in batting average at .313 while also contributing seven RBIs, tied for third best on the team. She’s also leading in on-base percentage (.400) and is second in slugging percentage (.422). Through 29 games, all of Ellazar’s three major hitting statistics are up from last season.
Sophomore Bridgette Nordberg has been one of the better improvements from 2017 to 2018, as she’s assumed a larger portion of the team’s offensive load. Her batting average is up from .263 to .295, with her on-base percentage up from .276 to .354. In addition, she’s been the most effective at hitting for extra bases and bringing in runs, leading the team in RBIs (10) and in slugging percentage (.432).
Jacqui Pascual has also been a pleasant surprise in her senior year. After only getting five at-bats last season in which she didn’t register a hit, she’s now batting .265 with a .367 slugging percentage, both third-best on the team. She’s also shown that she can knock runners in, having nine RBIs on the season, good for second-best on the team. Pascual has developed into a nice offensive contributor for the Terps, and hopes to maintain or improve her play as the season goes on.
But the Terps are still waiting on others to click.
After hitting .277 last season and leading the team in RBIs (26), home runs (6) and slugging percentage (.484), sophomore catcher Anna Kufta hasn’t been able to replicate her play. So far, Kufta has hit just .153 with one home run and seven RBIs. Her slugging percentage is also down to .222, and she’s tied for the team lead in strikeouts (20). Kufta moved from shortstop to catcher this season, and her new position puts additional strain on the body, but if the struggling Maryland offense is going to improve, it’s going to need its big hitter from 2017 back.
Similarly, Amanda Brashear was one of the team’s best hitters in 2017, and while she hasn’t exactly played poorly in 2018, her production hasn’t been the same. She led the team with a .304 batting average as a freshman, but is now down to .247 this season. Brashear has a chance to at least match her RBI total from 2017, with four so far after recording 10 last season, but her slugging percentage is down from .351 to .273. Like other players who are in need of improvement, there’s still time to swing her season. If she and others can make that turnaround, Maryland’s offense has a chance at getting over the hump.
The Terps start conference play Friday with a three-game weekend series at Penn State.